Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects: Daniel Sprong


Daniel Sprong was the first player chosen by the Penguins in the 2015 Entry Draft. After playing 18 games, he was sent back to the QMJHL. How has he been doing there?

The Pittsburgh Penguins‘ first pick in the 2015 Entry Draft was 46th overall. With that pick, they selected forward Daniel Sprong from the Charlottetown Islanders, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team.

Sprong, 18, was quickly signed to a three-year, entry-level contract and made the team coming out of training camp. He played eighteen games up with the big club, scoring two goals in that time. Then he was sent back down to his QMJHL team to develop further.

The decision to send him to the QMJHL again stemmed from the thought that he needed more consistent ice time. However, since he played more than nine games with Pittsburgh a year has already been burnt off his entry contract.

Obviously, the Penguins see a lot of potential in this kid. Signing a second-rounder to a contract so quickly and allowing a year to burn off it for only eighteen games played means they have a lot of faith in Sprong’s potential. Their early reports emphasized his speed, shot, and size.

So what has he been up to since he rejoined Charlottetown?

Prior to being drafted by the Penguins, Sprong led his junior team in scoring for two consecutive seasons. In 135 games played, he scored 156 points, 59 of which were goals. Since his return in December, he’s notched 44 points, 15 being goals, in 31 games for the Islanders.

That scoring prowess and his role in helping the lowly Islanders mount a comeback in the latter half of the season cemented Sprong as the QMJHL’s Second Star of the Week. As Charlottetown’s season winds down – they’re unlikely to make the playoffs – questions of where Sprong will play abound.

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He is eligible to rejoin the Penguins following the end of his junior season. Since that will probably be the case, look for him to spend some time playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. With so many of the Baby Pens up in Pittsburgh for the final stretch, there will be more than enough room for Sprong there.

Sprong will be able to get more ice time at the pro level now, and can even further develop the aspects of his game that so endeared him to the Penguins initially.

And who knows – now that Mike Johnston is gone and Mike Sullivan is the new coach, Sprong might even see some time up in Pittsburgh. Johnston was obviously not a huge fan of Sprong’s, benching him frequently and citing his lack of development as the reason.

However, Sprong may find a second chance with a new head coach. Sullivan emphasizes a fast game, especially with players like Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, and Phil Kessel in the lineup. Sprong has long legs and is a fast skater, noting during training camp that speed was one of the most important strengths the Penguins have.

His shot is powerful, and given how little the Penguins seem to shoot the puck that could only be an asset to the team.

Sprong will probably cement himself as a member of the Penguins by the start of the next season. Even if he continues to be a fringe player, the streak of injuries that will undoubtedly plague the Penguins next year too will give him his chance.